Why a $200 Million Gift Might Be Sending the Wrong Message

Last week, the Australian newspapers were awash with a story about one of the country’s richest businessmen.

The headline put it this way: James Packer to donate 200 Million to Charity

Then you read the story and you realise several things:

• It’s actually 20 million a year for 10 years (interesting how 200 Million creates a more-read headline though!)

• The tax savings Mr. Packer makes will be huge

We’ll come to that last part in a minute.

But for now, let’s say how great it is that Mr. Packer is giving. The casinos and other interests he has are clearly doing well. And his giving is, without any doubt, to be applauded and lauded.

Yet when you look a little deeper you discover that maybe, just maybe, the messages many people take from the way the story has been written might be totally the wrong ones.

• Possible wrong message 1 — “You have to be rich to give. I’m not rich so it’s great that other people can do this.”

• Possible wrong message 2 — “You have to be rich and successful to give. When I’m rich and successful I’ll give too.

• Possible wrong message 3 — It’s all about the money, not the impact it creates.

• Possible wrong message 4 — It’s all about doing things in one big hit.

Biz Stone, one of Twitter’s founders, deals with those first two issues brilliantly in his book ‘Things a little bird told me’. Stone puts it this way: “don’t ever wait for ‘success’ to start giving.”

And he’s spot on. There’s something about embedding the giving in what you do from Day 1 that creates a different way of thinking and being. It builds generosity and gratitude right into the heart of what you do. It connects you with you. And it connects you with those around you in new ways.

Stone walks his talk too. He tells how he actually hired someone to look after the company’s giving BEFORE they hired a salesperson.

When we created B1G1: Business for Good, we made sure that it was always about the impact, never about the money. In fact, we ONLY measure impacts — and right now we’re heading for 50 Million of them — each and every one created by Small to Medium Scale Enterprises around the world.

Right now too, I think all of us are beginning to understand that it’s never about the ‘big hits’ — it’s always about the small things and it’s about doing them habitually.

It is so much more powerful for businesses to be able to say to customers ‘when you bought this, 37 kids got access to blindness prevention medication’ or one of a thousand other possibilities in B1G1.

Or maybe Mr. Packer could even make sure that every bet placed at his casinos would give someone access to water. Right now 700 million people need that. And it would only cost Mr. Packer 1 cent in every bet to make it happen.

Maybe in Australia too with that ‘Race That Stops The Nation’, the Melbourne Cup coming up soon, an enterprising bookmaker like Robbie Waterhouse might want to do exactly the same thing. Just imagine the impact of that.

The good news is that so many people are now putting all of that into action at www.b1g1.com

It really is a different way of thinking and a different way of giving. And they’re doing it without concerning themselves with the tax issues. Which leads me to the promise I made earlier to talk about that.

In the story of James Packer’s giving in Smart Company the Chief Executive of Philanthropy Australia, Louise Walsh, says that the donation is “an outstanding example” for other Australians to follow. (Sure, a lot of Australians have 200 Million to give!)

And then she gets into the tax-saving piece like this: “We still have 37% of individuals earning over $1 million per year not claiming a tax deduction for making a charitable donation.”

Why we need to focus on things like that eludes me. Surely, it should simply be about making an impact and making a difference NOT whether or not we’ll get a tax break for doing it.

I’d love to hear your thoughts not just on the tax breaks but on how the stories that ‘get out there’ might just be sending the wrong messages and how we can change that so that more giving gets done.

As B1G1 Founder Masami Sato puts it, “We’re creating a world that’s full of giving. And that’s a much happier world.”

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About Paul Dunn

Paul is the chairman at B1G1 and a hugely respected and admired business leader too. He’s a 4-times TEDx speaker and he frequently travels around the world inspiring businesses with B1G1 and his amazing business insights.

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